Ming the Mechanic
The NewsLog of Flemming Funch

Thursday, August 12, 2004day link 

picture It is so easy to forget how magical and amazing life is. Not just my life, but the life in nature. You drop a seed in the ground, water it a bit, and the sun shines, and this seed strangely knows how to turn into a big plant, and to reproduce and make more, ad infinitum. I kind of wouldn't believe it if it wasn't so normal. And, ok, I'm not really much into gardening, but I do go out and water every day, which I can just about handle. And I can't miss all the stuff that comes up all by itself from what was just a piece of soil. OK, we dropped a few seeds and little plants in there, but the weeds are just as interesting.

People who're into technology often have little regard for nature. Messy, primitive, dirty stuff, which we think we can do much better. Where really we have little clue. Most of our technology is horribly primitive compared with the technology of nature. We are incapable of making anything like a seed. We can dream about it, in the form of nanotechnology, but no real results. A little unit, weighing a few milligrams, and you drop it into some random soil, and on its own power it extracts building materials from the surroundings, and reproduces cells, and builds a rather fancy construction with billions of parts and a whole infrastructure. Which is then solar powered, in addition to the water and minerals it keeps extracting. All at room temperature or worse. And not only that, but it is self-replicating, and will produce new seeds that do the same.

The best competition we can come up with is to mess with these things, and poke inside them, and see if something different comes out. Kind of typical for how our technologies work. We know how to poke around and learn to exploit something, by seeing what happens if we poke it different ways. You know, like psychiatry by cutting off different parts of the brain and seeing what happens. But we're very ignorant on how to actually make any of the stuff we're messing with. We haven't succeeded in making a single cell, despite having taken many apart to see what they consisted of. We don't really get it yet. Life, on many levels.
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